VICTORY! RI ends ICE Holds // ¡VICTORIA! RI quita los ICE holds

The following text was sent out (and posted online) by the Olneyville Neighborhood Association, a small, grassroots organization in RI that “organizes low-income families, immigrants communities, and people of color in Olneyville and beyond to create a diverse, community-led movement that wins economic, social and political justice.” I worked with them as a digital literacy instructor for a while, and then I moved into the role of board chair for two years. It’s a scrappy, hardworking organization that creates real, meaningful change in the community, and I’m so so proud that after so much work on the ICE holds issue with other community organizations, this victory has been achieved. I’m also proud to say that, while I was at Sojourner House, we also signed on to this work and supported these actions.
Foto de Toño y apoyantes, saliendo de la cárcel, libre después de 7 meses con ICE Hold // Photo of Toño and supporters, leaving jail, free after 7 months with an ICE hold

Foto de Toño y apoyantes, saliendo de la cárcel, libre después de 7 meses con ICE Hold // Photo of Toño and supporters, leaving jail, free after 7 months with an ICE hold.

VICTORY! RI ends ICE Holds 

Dear friends, family, and compañer@s,

It is with overwhelming joy that we share the news that yesterday, July 17th, 2014, RI Governor Lincoln Chafee signed an order directing our state’s prisons and jails to end their practice of holding immigrant detainees for additional time in order to transfer them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  The previous policy of accepting “ICE hold” resulted in unknown hundreds of our community members being unfairly held by RI authorities, sent to ICE, and deported, often separating them from family members in Rhode Island.
Today, following the order, ONA member Antonio Mejia was released after nearly 7 months of detention on $300 bail for the charge of driving without a license.  Toño was arrested in Central Falls, RI in December and sent to RI’s state jail, where ICE placed a hold on him.  Had Toño paid bail, he would have been sent to ICE and likely deported.  Instead of accepting this fate, Toño made the courageous choice to stay and fight, organizing from behind bars to pressure Governor Chafee to end this unjust practice.  This victory is a testament to Toño’s courage, sacrifice, and faith in the power of organized communities to defend their rights and win justice.
With the signing of this order, Rhode Island has implemented the strongest statewide policy in the country limiting collaboration with ICE.  This policy comes on the heels of years of organizing against ICE holds by a strong coalition of organizations (see below for a list of campaign supporters).  After numerous meetings with the Governor and other state officials, delegations, forums, press conferences, marches, rallies and call-ins, the state has finally taken action.  The policy comes a month after leading gubernatorial candidates committed to ending compliance with ICE holds if elected.  The policy also comes out in the midst of a lawsuit: Ada Morales, a US citizen, has sued the state and ICE for twice being detained on an ICE hold.
We celebrate this tremendous victory and the impact it will have on our communities; however, we also believe that for the hundreds who have been held and deported because of ICE holds, and for the tens of thousands who have had to live in fear for years that a routine traffic stop could lead to their deportation, that justice delayed is justice denied.  Up until the night before the policy was issued, ICE was in our jail picking up members of our community.  Governor Chafee bears responsibility for maintaining the holds policy for years after this issue was brought to his attention.  Even now, his office tells us that the policy was issued this week in order to protect the state from liability in the ongoing lawsuit.  The Governor’s foot-dragging and reluctant acceptance of community demands represents a missed opportunity for moral leadership at the highest levels of state government.
Rhode Island now joins over 160 jurisdictions in 20 states rejecting ICE holds.  These figures represent the victories of a growing national movement challenging the collaboration of local law enforcement in President Obama’s policy of mass deportation.  We celebrate our win here in Rhode Island and at the same time recommit ourselves to the fight against deportation and the separation of families.  We won’t rest until our communities can live free from fear of deportation.  Please take a moment to read about the case of another ONA member, Ernesto Tipaz, who is currently in ICE detention facing deportation, and send ICE and email calling for his release.
Thank you again to all those who made this tremendous victory possible.
¡Hasta la victoria siempre!  Until victory, always!
Olneyville Neighorhood Association

Continue reading

Emergency Press Conference to Denounce Police Brutality

UPDATES from PrYSM 1/11/13: (versión en español, en parte, abajo)

As you may have heard, this past Tuesday, two Cambodian families were raided and subject to police brutality. As a response to this constant systemic violence, we are asking our leaders to support and speak out at a Press Conference, Saturday, January 12th at 2:00pm, located at the first temple on Hanover Street, Providence. These raids and profiling of our community has to stop. The last two raids resulted in brutality against a 13 year old boy and a 77 year old Cambodian woman.

PrYSM has been in constant communication with the family. On Wednesday, January 9th, 2012, with the help of various organizations and individuals, we began to circulate COMMITMENT TO SUPPORT here.

In less than 24 hours, we received over 850 sign-on’s to support the family and it is still growing. We are asking for your support in a few ways:

1) Forward and distribute the media advisory to your e-mail list/media list. The advisory is below.

What do we do when the cops attack? | Stand up! Fight Back!

Emergency Press Conference to Denounce Police Brutality
Tomorrow, Saturday 1/12 @ 2pm
Wat Thormikaram (Khmer Buddhist Center of RI) 177 Hanover St.

On Tuesday night, Providence Police raided two Cambodian households in the West End. Police entered without showing a warrant, beat a 13-year-old while he was asleep in his bed, handcuffed a 77-year-old woman and held her at gunpoint, humiliated women, stole property, and arrested people. This is not the first time that the police have conducted these brutal, racially targeted raids in the Cambodian community.

Come out to support the affected families and join them in their demands that enough is enough! We demand less policing in our communities, full disclosure of all past home raids, a public apology from the City, and for all charges to be dropped.

March and rally to follow in the coming week.

Contact: Chanravy Proeung – chanravy@prysm.us

———

¿Qué hacemos cuando nos ataca la policía? | ¡Nos Levantamos y Luchamos!

Conferencia de Prensa para Denunciar la Brutalidad Policial
Mañana, el sábado 1-12 @ 2pm
Wat Thormikaram (centro budista camboyano de RI) 177 Hanover St.

El martes en la noche, la policía de Providence hicieron redadas en dos casas camboyanas en el barrio West End. La policía entró sin mostrar su órden de cateo, golpeó a un joven de 13 años mientras que él dormía en su cama, esposó a una anciana de 77 años y la amenazó con armas, humilló a las mujeres, robó propiedad, y hizó arrestos. No es la primera vez que la policía han hecho redadas así violentos y racistas en la comunidad camboyana.

¡Sal para apoyar a la familia afectada y unirte con sus demandas que ya basta! Demandamos menos policía en nuestras comunidades, transparencia completa de todas las redadas que han pasado, una disculpa pública e inmediata de la ciudad, y que boten todos los cargos contra los afectados.

Habrá una marcha y manifestación en la semana que viene.

Contacta a Chanravy, chanravy@prysm.us (inglés) o Will, wlambek@onaprovidence.org (español)

2) Show support by appearing and bringing people, family, friends to the press conference. The more, the better. [Helping out with rides].

3) It is important for OUR community leaders to speak up. Someone NOT from PrYSM, we will have representatives there, but most importantly–WE MUST SHOW SOLIDARITY to the media, the city, and the public.

4) Continue to distribute the Commitment of Support (the link above). This is an important tool, hundreds of people are in support and we can show folks the support in numbers.

PLEASE FORWARD: Police Raids & Brutality in Providence, RI

*Please forward widely*

Dear friends and family, Last night, two police raids occurred on two separate Cambodian houses in the West End of Providence, Rhode Island. At one of the house raids, police officers entered without knocking or presenting a warrant, claiming to be looking for guns. They handcuffed family members (including a 77-year old woman) and held them at gunpoint. They dragged a 13-year-old out of his bed, threw him on the ground, and stomped on him while he was down. Three people were arrested altogether. No firearms were found. When the warrant was finally presented (after everyone had been handcuffed), it was for narcotics, not firearms.

This is not the first time this has happened. Since summer 2012, four Cambodian households have been targeted and raided. In previous raids, police officers damaged houses, verbally abused people, stole property, brutalized elders and youth, humiliated women, and violated basic human rights. These attacks on our community have been increasing rapidly, and many of the time, the victims are young people.

Police use raids like these to try to spark fear in our communities, but we will not let it continue. We are going to present the family tomorrow night with options to take action. We are asking for your support, to stand in solidarity with this family, through this difficult time. We plan to present the family with a list of supporters to show them that they’re not alone in this fight. This is not the first time this has happened but it will be the last.

Please fill out this form to support this family and empower them to take action.

Love,
Franny & the PrYSM Fam
——————————
*Favor de re-enviar*

Queridos amigos y familiares, Anoche pasaron redadas policiacas en dos casas cambodianas en el barrio West End de Providence, Rhode Island. En una de estas redadas, la policía entró a fuerza sin presentar una orden de cateo, declarando que buscaban armas. Esposaron a toda la familia (incluso una anciana de 77 años) y los amenazaron con pistolas. Arrastraron un joven de 13 años de su cama, lo tiraron en el piso, y lo patearon. Detuvieron tres personas en total. No encontraron ninguna arma. Cuando al final presentaron la orden de cateo, (después de haber esposado a todos) se mostró que la orden se trató de narcóticos, no armas.

No es la primera vez que esto ha pasado. Desde el verano de 2012, cuatro casas cambodianas han sido los blancos de redadas policiacas. En las redadas previas, la policía ha dañando la casa, abusado personas verbalmente, maltratado los ancianos y los jóvenes, humillado las mujeres, y violado los derechos humanos básicos. Estos ataques contra nuestra comunidad están incrementando rápidamente, y muchas veces los víctimas son nuestros jóvenes.

La policía usan redadas como ésta para crear temor en nuestras comunidades, pero no lo permitimos seguir. Mañana por la noche, hablaremos con la familia afectada con sus opciones para tomar acción. Les pedimos su apoyo, para estar en solidaridad con esta familia en estos tiempos difíciles. Les presentaremos una lista de personas en apoyo a la familia afectada para mostrarlos que no están solos en esta lucha. No es la primera vez que algo así ha pasado, pero sí será la última.

The Pointy, Thuddy, and Zappy: How Legal Are They?

So remember that one time I got stopped at TSA for accidentally bringing a throwing knife (like the image below) in my purse? (They confiscated the beautiful thing and I might get a fine in the mail…? Speaking of which, if you bring in dangerous items in your carry-ons through TSA the fines range from $250 or so up to $1,500 depending on mitigating/aggravating factors). You better bet I spent the rest of my time at the gate before my flight looking up the legality of various items/kink toys on my iPhone because I didn’t want that to happen again. I encourage y’all to check your local laws as well, so you don’t get screwed over due to ignorance.

As a primer, here’s the info for 3 types of toys for the 3 states I most frequent:

Knives:

 
Generally: switchblades, bowie knives, spring-loaded knives, gravity knives, butterfly knives, double edged knives = illegal. These are the “worrisome” knives because they’re easy to pull out one-handed and cause mayhem with (so the issue is drawing capability). Also on this list? Ballistic knives–ones where the blade can be thrown/ejected from the knife and onto/into a thing/person.

  • In MA: You can own any, but the type of blade you carry (read: carry on your person, or carry under your control in a vehicle) is the one they care about. In certain areas, there’s a particular blade length max., too, but there’s no MA-wide one. For example, as per the ordinances in Boston (specifically, Chapter 16, Section 45), people can’t carry knives with blades longer than 2.5 inches except when hunting, fishing, or “any employment, trade or lawful recreational or culinary activity which customarily involves the carrying or use of any type of knife” and subsequently, when going to/from those activities. Also it’s okay to carry a bigger knife “[if it is] being transported directly to or from a place of purchase, sharpening, or repair, and if packaged in such a manner as not to allow easy access to the knife while it is being transported.” The fines are no more than $300 per offense.

Here’s the text from the penal code: “(b) Whoever, except as provided by law, carries on his person, or carries on his person or under his control in a vehicle, any stiletto, dagger or a device or case which enables a knife with a locking blade to be drawn at a locked position, any ballistic knife, or any knife with a detachable blade capable of being propelled by any mechanism, dirk knife, any knife having a double-edged blade, or a switch knife, or any knife having an automatic spring release device by which the blade is released from the handle, having a blade of over one and one-half inches […] shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than two and one-half years nor more than five years in the state prison, or for not less than six months nor more than two and one-half years in a jail or house of correction, except that, if the court finds that the defendant has not been previously convicted of a felony, he may be punished by a fine of not more than fifty dollars or by imprisonment for not more than two and one-half years in a jail or house of correction.”

  • In NY: The state itself doesn’t have max. length, and you can pretty much possess any knife that’s not one of those “generally bad/illegal knives” I mentioned earlier (e.g. switchblades). Possession of other knives is only illegal if you have a “lawful blade” with intent to harm, but law officials COULD presume the latter just based on possession, so it’s messy. In NYC, specifically, (Chapter 10, Section 33), “it shall be unlawful for any person to carry on his or her person or have in such person’s possession, in any  public  place,  street,  or park any knife which has a blade length of four inches or more,” though they do have provisions for recreational/employment-related knife use and stuff.

Here’s the text from the NY penal code: (1) He or she possesses any […] gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, […]; or (2) He possesses any dagger, dangerous knife, dirk, razor, stiletto, imitation pistol, or any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another” 

  • In RI: The maximum blade length for wearing or carrying any knife concealed is 3 inches (measuring from the end of the handle where the blade is attached to the end of the blade). The “no-no” knives CAN be owned if there’s no intent to use them unlawfully against another, but it could get messy trying to prove that (in either direction) in a court of law.

Here’s the text from the RI law (Section 11-47-42): “(a) No person shall […] with intent to use unlawfully against another, carry or possess a dagger, dirk, stiletto, sword-in-cane, bowie knife, or other similar weapon designed to cut and stab another, nor shall any person wear or carry concealed upon his person, any of the above-mentioned instruments or weapons, or any razor, or knife of any description having a blade of more than three (3) inches in length measuring from the end of the handle where the blade is attached to the end of the blade, or other weapon of like kind or description. Any person violating the provisions of this subsection shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, and the weapon so found shall be confiscated.”

Sap gloves/weighted knuckle gloves:

  • In MA: It seems you can own them, but not carry them anywhere. They don’t mention sap gloves by that specific name, but they talk about it being illegal to carry “metallic knuckles or knuckles of any substance which could be put to the same use with the same or similar effect as metallic knuckles” and “any similar device made from any other substance or a cestus or similar material weighted with metal or other substance and worn on the hand.”
  • In NY: Sap gloves aren’t specifically mentioned as “unlawful weapons” by state law, though they do mention the illegal nature of [possessing] plastic knuckles and metal knuckles, so…? Maybe illegal?
  • In RI: Possessing and carrying are both illegal, as is the “attempt to use against another.”

Stun guns:

  • In MA: Possession is illegal (source).

Whoever violates this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 or by imprisonment in the house of correction for not less than 6 months nor more than 21/2 years, or by both such fine and imprisonment. A law enforcement officer may arrest without a warrant any person whom he has probable cause to believe has violated this section.

  • In NY: In the penal code, possession of an “electronic dart gun” (the ones with a bit that shoots out to stun) or “electronic stun gun” (the ones you need to press against the person) is illegal and would be classified as possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, a class A misdemeanor.
  • In RI: Possessing and carrying are both illegal, as is the “attempt to use against another.” Same penalties as with the knives. The one I had (but lost!) looks like the image above, but it was gold on the outside and black on the inside.

Fight Against Fraud (Message from ONA)

**En Español abajo**

¡¡Take action with ONA this Saturday!!

The struggle against theft and fraud at Paraiso Multiservices continues…

José Silverio, the man who presents himself as the owner of a remittance agency on Chalkstone Avenue called Paraiso Multiservices, has been stealing money from his customers for over a year. Most of these customers are Latino immigrants who use his service to send their hard-earned dollars home to support their families in Guatemala, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere. Last month, a small group of Pariso Multiservices customers came forward to denounce this theft. Since then, they have organized over 30 customers, who together have lost over $50,000, to demand justice. They filed a criminal complaint, and last Saturday they staged a successful picket outside of the business attended by dozens of victims and their allies. (Check out the pictures, attached, and thank you to all who came out!)

This week, while the state police continue to investigate this theft,
these customers are taking their fight back to the streets!
Join them this Saturday, July 28th for a picket outside of José Silverio’s house to say ENOUGH is ENOUGH-
stop stealing from our community! 

Picket to Demand Justice!
Saturday, July 28th
5pm
532 Plainfield St, Providence

Have questions? Want more information? Call ONA at 401.228.8996

************

¡¡Toma acción con ONA este sábado!!

La lucha contra robo y fraude en Paraiso Multiservices continua…

José Silverio, el hombre representándose como el dueño de Paraiso Multiservices, una agencia de remesas en la Chalkstone, ha estado robando a sus clientes por más de un año. La mayoría de estos clientes son inmigrantes Latinos que usan el servicio para mandar su dinero ganado con sudor a sus países de origen para sostener a sus familias en Guatemala, Mexico, la República Domincana, entre otros lugares. En junio, un grupo de clientes de Pariso Multiservice se levantaron para denuniciar el robo. Desde entonces, ellos han organizado más de 30 clientes que han perdido más de $50,000 para demandar justicia. Ellos hicieron una denuncia formal, y el sábado pasado ellos organizaron un piquete exitoso con 40 victimas y aliados afuera del negocio. (Mira las fotos anexadas, y gracias a tod@s que vinieron!)

Esta semana, mientras que la policia estatal continua con su investigación,
estos clientes van a llevar su lucha a las calles otra vez!
Venga este sábado, 28 de julio para un piquete afuera de la casa de José Silverio para decir YA BASTA-
¡deja de robar de nuestra comunidad!


¡Piquete para demandar justicia!
sábado, 28 de julio
5pm
532 Plainfield St, Providence

Tienes preguntas? Quieres más información? Llama a ONA: 401.228.8996

Transgender Hate Crimes Monitoring Bill- S2488 becomes law

Announcement from Youth Pride Inc.:
Last week, Governor Chafee signed the Transgender Hate Crimes Monitoring Bill into law.
Youth Pride Inc. wants to thank the General Assembly and the Governor for their support of this legislation. 
Rhode Island law will now contain the words “gender identity or expression” in the definition of a bias motivated crime for monitoring purposes. It will require that statistics on crimes motivated by gender identity/expression related bias to be kept by the State Police along with other bias motivated crimes. It will also include gender identity or expression in “mandatory training standards to provide instruction for police officers in identifying, responding to and reporting all incidents of ‘hate crimes’,” in accordance with RI General Law 42-28.2-8.1.  
In 2001, Rhode Island became the second state in the country to add “gender identity and expression” into its non-discrimination laws, there are now 16 states plus Washington DC with such laws. Today, we celebrate as Rhode Island becomes the 16th state plus Washington DC to recognize crimes motivated by prejudice and bias due to “gender identity or expression.” 
Youth Pride wishes to thank bill sponsors  Sen. Perry, Nesselbush, Miller, DeVall, and Crowley, as well as Reps. Ajello, Handy, Blazejewski, Cimini, Walsh and Ferri for their support in this effort. Youth Pride also wishes to thank our community partners in this effort including the RI Commission on Prejudice and Bias, Marriage Equality Rhode Island, Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, TGI-Network, the RI Chapter of the ACLU, RINASW as well as Rhode Island’s Transgender community and their allies.  
Jayeson Watts, MSW, MT-BC
Direct Services Coordinator                                                           
Youth Pride Inc.
743 Westminster St.
Providence, RI 02903
Connect with Youth Pride Inc. on Facebook and find out what is happening this week at YPI!

Testimony Around Reproductive Health and Abortion Bills in RI

On Wednesday, I went to the RI Statehouse to testify because there was a hearing for a group of bills around reproductive health. I’d gone last year and found it important to go once again and have my voice heard. Being part of the political process in a room with passionate people (even if they’re not all in my camp) is invigorating and bizarre, especially stuck up in a balcony…but anyway. More on my feelings, thoughts, and observations about the process later. I wanted to capture my testimony (which I wrote as I waited to speak) and share it with y’all.
(BEFORE PROCEEDING: Look at the bills and their text! Check them out here.)
The following is my testimony:
My name is Aida Manduley and I’m here in support of bills 7754 and 7041, and in opposition to the rest of the ones on the docket.

Before I discuss my support of those 2 bills, I want to address what previous speakers have mentioned around intent <Note: For context, this was directed at the legislator who proposed the bill around mandatory ultrasounds and “informed consent.” She kept talking about her intent this and her intent that, how we were “misinterpreting” her intent and blah blah blah>. In making major political decisions, we need to look at context, intent, AND effect…and ultimately, effect trumps intent. Even “well-meaning” legislation can have unintended effects, and THESE effects are what can create barriers to care, misinformation, and unnecessary political interference with personal, medical decisions.

As someone who works at a domestic violence agency, as someone trained in dealing with sexual assault and crisis assistance, as a sexuality educator, and as a woman, I have personal as well as professional experience in what these bills would mean to women across Rhode Island.

In regards to bill 7754, this is a bill to keep our youth SAFE. This isn’t a bill to take parents out of the equation, but to give pregnant teens bodily autonomy–to give them the option to, through contact with trained professionals and authorities, make personal decisions about their future and care. 

In my work, I educate, and encourage parent-child conversations around these issues, but must admit that these conversations are NOT always possible, and not always safe. I’ve encountered minors who are NOT supported by their families, who regardless of their own wishes, would be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term if this bill did not pass. I’ve encountered young women abused by their own families (emotionally, physically, and sexually), for whom it is not safe to require parental consent for an abortion, for whom it is even re-traumatizing to event attempt to do so.

I’ve served and counseled young women, scared and pregnant, some already with children, who are in abusive relationships where condom negotiation isn’t possible, whose families don’t know about their relationships or who are even buddy-buddy with the abusers–women who are already experiencing health disparities and barriers to care…am I supposed to tell them I must repeat the patterns of their abusers? Am I supposed to tell them our legislators have decided that they ultimately have NO choice about what happens to their bodies? Please consider what I have said, as someone who has both personal and professional experience with these issues, and support bills 7754 and 7041.

Hate Crimes Bill Passes in RI House (53 to 15)

As someone who has gone to the Statehouse in support of this bill, its House passage makes me happy!

MERI has just issued the following press release:


Statement from Marriage Equality Rhode Island on House passage of hate crimes reporting legislation


PROVIDENCE – Marriage Equality Rhode Island Campaign Director Ray Sullivan issued the following statement today after the House of Representatives passed legislation to include gender identity and expression as part of the hate crimes reporting law: “On behalf of the tens of thousands of equality supporters across Rhode Island, we commend and thank Rep. Edith Ajello and those state representatives who voted in favor of including gender identity and expression in the hate crimes reporting law. 


While there is much more that our state must do to stop violence and hate crimes of any nature, this is an important first step in protecting a group of citizens that for too long have been unjustly targeted and in some cases maliciously attacked for no other reason than being who they are. 


It is critically important that these crimes be reported and tracked, and we look forward to working with members of the General Assembly to make sure such crimes are appropriately prosecuted and that the perpetrators are punished to the fullest extent of the law. 


We urge the Senate to quickly take up this bill and send it to Gov. Chafee for his signature.

Response to Ridiculous TFP Article

Want to read the article I’ll be dissecting? Click here.

What we faced today at Brown University, an Ivy League university, had the flavor of a religious persecution. As we peacefully campaigned, about 250 frenzied pro-homosexual students gathered to scream, spit, taunt, insult, assault, and even attempt to destroy our traditional marriage banner. Only with supernatural protection, and a strong police presence, did TFP volunteers manage to complete the campaign without serious injury.

  • I’d say religious persecution indeed, but the persecutors were TFP volunteers–those who came to our campus waving banners proclaiming their views on “traditional marriage,” upsetting, frightening, and alienating members of our LGBTQ and LGBTQ-friendly population, handing out pamphlets saying we were going to hell, listing all the reasons why we were “wrong” and “sick.”
  • I’d amend their paragraph to say “pro-LGBTQ rights” students. What primarily rallied us together were our feelings about civil rights–a desire for equality, especially in relation to same-sex marriage.
  • We didn’t gather to “scream, spit, taunt, insult, assault” — we gathered to counter-protest. There is a difference between “screaming” and “chanting,” by the way. In any massive crowd of people incensed by a political/personal issue such as this, you will ALWAYS get people who get rowdy or don’t behave in the most tactful manner. However, to pretend like most (or even MANY) Brown individuals were “out of line” is a flat-out falsehood. Similarly, implying that without the Brown police and “supernatural protection,” there would’ve been a threat to the TFP volunteers’ bodily integrity and that only thanks to police were they not seriously injured is ludicrous. Finally, comparing the behavior and “united front” of a TINY contingent (12-15 people at most) of people who are TRAINED in protesting and are doing this as part of a national tour to hundreds of passersby, students, staff, and others who impromptu gathered on Brown’s campus due to the presence of TFP is A TERRIBLE, INACCURATE, UNFAIR comparison.
  • I also need to mention that our central quad is NOT public property and that TFP’s campaign/protest/hatefest invaded our campus without permission.
  • I’m pretty sure no one spit ON protestors. What I witnessed and got captured on film was that some people received pamphlets from TFP, tore them up, then spit on THE PAMPHLETS.

Suddenly, a loud thud-rip noise was heard. I looked up and saw a pro-homosexual student literally crashing through our traditional marriage banner, attempting to destroy it. Running at top speed, he flung himself into it and ripped one side loose. Some students watching from a distance approvingly cheered the act of violence. 

  • That’s true, and I think that student was extremely misguided in what they did. It was inappropriate on many levels and should never happen again.

“Why are you here?” many students asked. We politely told them how the TFP was on a state-wide tour defending traditional marriage. They would just stand there in a sort of daze, and repeat the question again: “But why are you here?” Some of them just couldn’t believe it.

  • Of course they couldn’t believe it. For some people, it’s hard to think that at a generally liberal, tolerant location such as Brown University, there would be such a protest. Being at Brown sometimes shields people from the cruel realities of the world, such as rampant homophobia, so it’s jarring to see that homophobia and hatred right in the center of our campus grounds. Furthermore, it must’ve been a case of confusion due to the fact that TFP is not a student group and did not request to be on Brown’s campus, so they had no permission to be there and people were wondering why/how they were there.

TFP volunteer Mr. Danniel Pribble debated with one pro-homosexual student, illustrating how the acceptance of homosexual vice leads to the acceptance of pedophilia. In fact, during a recent session in Canadian parliament, experts claimed that pedophilia is a “sexual orientation.” / “What moral grounds do you stand on to oppose pedophilia, once you’ve accepted homosexual behavior?” asked Mr. Pribble. “You’re right,” answered the student. “I don’t have any substantive objection with pedophilia.”

  • The conversation about pedophilia is a very complex one that usually gets many parties riled up. It’s also completely irrelevant to this event and its purpose, and the comparison of accepting homosexuality and accepting pedophilia is a stupid one. I’ll point out the biggest hole: pedophilia involves minors, people who are unable to legally consent to sexual activity, while homosexuality, as long as it’s between CONSENTING adults, is exactly that–consensual. Anyway, the opinion of ONE student on pedophilia is by no means representative of the LGBTQ community at Brown or any group, for that matter. 

As Mr. James Bascom distributed pro-family literature, a woman with a rainbow ribbon on her lapel said: “You’re being so intolerant!”/ “Why don’t you tolerate us?” inquired Mr. Bascom. “So tolerance is a one-way street, then?” / “Yes, yes. It is,” said the woman. It became amply clear that free speech at Brown University is not free and that the opposition would do everything they could to silence our message of truth: that marriage is between one man, and one woman.

  • This argument keeps coming up, and it’s still ridiculous every time. Being “tolerant of intolerance” DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. Long story short: tolerance doesn’t have to be awarded to groups that advocate hatred and keeping sections of our population as second-class citizens. Finally, the TFP message isn’t “a message of truth”–it’s a message of OPINION that disguises itself as a “message of truth.”

By now, the number of pro-homosexual students increased to about 250. The pitch of their screaming intensified too, and in the chaos, one of our youngest volunteers, Zachariah Long, 17, was spat upon in the face. 

  • I am SO very doubtful that this happened, so very doubtful.

Approaching Zachariah, one student said: “Can I shake your hand? Because it takes a lot of courage to be out here.” Another added: “This is great! But, I’m going to go right now before something happens. Keep up the good fight. Thanks for being here. It takes a lot of guts. It’s really brave.”

  • If ONE more person says “Oh wow, it’s really brave to be conservative at Brown,” I swear I’m going to have a conniption. Since when is it oh-so-brave to spout hatred and claim opinions as facts? It’s about as brave and informed as going into a room full of women and saying “YOU SHOULD ALL BE IN THE KITCHEN MAKING ME DINNER.” Oy. Bravery is in the eye of the beholder, I guess, though, so what might be “brave” to some, others might just call “stupid” (e.g. facing off against a ravenous tiger just for fun, or protesting like this at Brown). Anyway, even if what TFP did was “brave” by some definitions, it’s by no means positive, right, or something we should be admiring. I’d also like to point out the courage/bravery of all the COUNTER-protestors, as well as LGBTQ people in general.

On the other side of the intersection, Mr. Leo Fitzsimmons, a TFP supporter, explained why marriage is important: “marriage produces children. And there’s no future without marriage. Same-sex ‘marriage’ does not produce children.” This simple reality befuddled the student who responded with profanities. “God bless America,” responded Mr. Fitszimmons. The young student, who looked like an American, was so upset that she yelled, “I’m not American!”

  • Marriage is important because it produces children? So should infertile couples not be allowed to marry? There’s no future without marriage? Oh right, because adoption doesn’t exist, no one is ever born outside of wedlock, people in same-sex marriages can’t bear children if not biologically with their partner, and people have to be married and in love to propagate the human race…
  • Also, what is the need to talk about someone “looking like an American”? What does it mean to “look American”? THIS IS SO PROBLEMATIC. Do they men she looked Caucasian? And who CARES? This entire sentence is so riddled with problems, I don’t even know where to begin. It’s freaking me out.

Seeing the violent attitude of the pro-homosexual students, the police chief wanted to escort us to our van and ensure our safe departure. After completing the 1 hour and 30 minute rally in its entirety, we prayed three Hail Marys, shouted our motto “Tradition Family Property – America” and left. Policemen surrounded us on all sides and were assisted by a patrol vehicle on the street. A rowdy group of approximately 250 pro-homosexual advocates attempted to break through the perimeter to harass us. Without ceasing, they screamed obscenities and yelled in chorus over and over again: “God loves gays!”

  • The Brown police was there to make sure people protested peacefully and nothing got out of hand. MOSTLY, though, they were trying to make sure traffic kept flowing, no one got hit by a car (since the protest and counter-protest were getting huge and, towards the end, it all turned into a march), and that sidewalks remained clear at certain areas. It’s not like they “wanted to escort” TFP to their van, but that it was part of their job to do so as part of the BROWN DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY because they are there at all big events, especially protests.

Thank God, the police protected us as we packed our vans. But when we pulled away from the curb, many pro-homosexual students closed in to hit the sides of our vehicles with their fists or palms. A hard object, maybe a rock, was thrown against one of the vans.

  • I highly doubt something was thrown, but whatever. 

Brown University Against Homophobia

After experiencing a “pro-traditional marriage” rally this past summer (at the hands of none other than The National Organization for [Opposite-Sex] Marriage in its disturbing nationwide tour), I was more than ready to deal with TFP (which stands for, wait for it: TRADITION, FAMILY, AND PROPERTY) coming to Brown’s campus. (For background, please check the sources linked at the end of this post which provide coverage of the events that transpired.) 

My feelings about the event were definitely mixed. On the bright side, I thought the response from people at Brown was tremendous. It was invigorating to see so many folks (and tons of heterosexual allies) showing their support, chanting, holding signs, donning rainbow flags, pins, and even blankets to demonstrate that TFP’s message of intolerance and religious fanaticism wasn’t going to be tolerated on our campus without, at the very LEAST, a counter-demonstration. I was glad we finally had one of these groups come to Brown while people were HERE and could do something about it (unlike, say, the Westboro Baptist Church Hate Machine a few years back, which came right after we all left for summer break). Plus any opportunity I get to wear my ROY G. B(I)V outfit is welcome!
On the not-so-bright side, though, I was upset by the fact that they stepped on my beloved campus spewing their hateful message. It’s always somewhat scary (and really bizarre) to be surrounded by people who hate what my communities stand for and who legitimately think we’re going to burn in some hell, who see our lives as revolting and horrible. It’s personally offensive to be reminded that many people still consider us subhuman or sick or harmful to society. It’s painful to be reminded that many politicians and state legislatures think same-sex marriage isn’t necessary, or isn’t a worthwhile cause/investment, and to know that so many people have suffered because their relationships haven’t been acknowledged.
This isn’t just about marriage, though. In what’s known as a blue-state, in the heart of a liberal campus, we are yet again reminded that we are not considered equal citizens. Just as recently as 2009, Governor Carcieri vetoed a bill that would have added domestic partners to the list of people authorized by law to make funeral arrangements for each other.  His reasoning?  “This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue.” (Thankfully, this bill eventually passed in 2010.) Even more recently, in 2008 and 2010, Mr. Carcieri ALSO vetoed House Bill 7044/Senate Bill 2055 that would’ve added “gender identity and expression” to RI’s hate crimes statute. Reasoning? “Those who struggle with gender confusion deserve our compassion and understanding — not laws that cement them into an identity which denies biological and objective reality.” (This bill was just heard once again on Tuesday, so we’ll see what happens now.)
While inside (or facing off against) any crowd of staunch conservatives, Republicans, anti-choice/pro-life people basically saying that I’m going to hell, that I’m a horrible, degenerate human being, that my family is ashamed of me, that I’m something that shouldn’t exist, and even worse…I wonder…how many of these people do I pass by as I walk down the street? Does the cashier at CVS secretly hate these big things I stand for? What about the woman sitting next to me on the bus? My professors? Will I ever run into people who were at the protest and wrote horrible things that entirely misrepresented what happened? I’m all for finding connections with people and trying to get along on SOME level, even if we have fundamental differences of opinion, but when those bridges we’ve built are rickety and sometimes depend on ignoring REALLY big differences, you can’t blame a girl for being nervous.
Anyway, just because I’ve gone through this type of thing before (again, this summer’s anti-NOM protest was a perfect example), it doesn’t make it any less infuriating. Like I told the Brown Daily Herald, I think the group came here, in part, to gain media attention. “Because it’s a college and there’s this idea that kids are wild and crazy, especially at Brown, they think they can find fodder for their anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.” It pisses me off because I KNOW what their interest is, I KNOW what they’re going to do with the footage. No matter how peaceful and “proper” we are, they will always spin it into something different. This past summer, NOM did the same thing, except our “battlefield” was the RI Statehouse.
If you want to see for yourself, just compare this NOM blogpost with this TFP blogpost. Similar? No surprise there. So many anti-LGBTQ/same-sex marriage folks use the SAME DAMN TACTICS each and every single time, it actually makes them easier to spot. NOM folks misrepresented attendance, artfully cut their sound-clips and videos, and basically tried to portray all the anti-NOM-ers as these wild, violent rainbow-wielding creatures who were going to hurt their children (both the ones at the rally and those all over America) and try to take over the world with their big, gay agenda of degenerate ideas.
*facepalm*

It’s good to remind myself that there are many places in the world, even in my own backyard, that aren’t like my LGBTQ-friendly, sex-positive circles. It reminds me why I have to continue doing the work that I do; there is still a lot of violence, hatred, shame, and misinformation in the world. The important thing here is that we will not give into their fear-mongering. We will stand and we will take action despite (or even because of) our fears and insecurities. As I said in an interview for the Brown Daily Herald: “We know they have a right to free speech, but if their speech is hateful, the Brown community will not stay silent.”

******************************

And now, for the utterly laughable and entirely unfortunate coverage from the hate-group itself: “Video: Pro-Homosexuals at Brown University Respond to Peaceful TFP Rally with Violence”
[Update: As of 3/29, YouTube has removed the TFP video for some reason. Strange, but I won’t complain. The less hate on the internet, the better.] While I could deconstruct the video, its tactics, its supporting group, and their horrible little mission, I’ll instead leave you with a comment that someone on YouTube left in response to the TFP statements about provocation (TFP claims they weren’t provoking the campus and were met with “shocking violence,” among other things):
I think you would do well to look up the meaning of “provocation.” When bagpipe-playing, 20-foot-tall banner toting groups of people come to the place where you live to courteously inform you that you are going to hell and there is nothing you can do about it, I would be hard pressed to find anyone who would be pleased. There were no assaults; please, try to stick to the facts. And your victim rhetoric? Please. 20 seconds of feeling unsafe? Try a lifetime.